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Thursday, October 03, 2013

2013 Faculty Hiring: Will Schools Be Looking for More This Year?

In making new faculty hires, law schools have traditionally focused scholarship and teaching, often looking specifically at a candidate's research agenda and teaching package.  Most of the questions asked at those 25-minute interviews revolve around these topics.  But I'm wondering if this year will be different.  My hypothesis is that some schools will go beyond the traditional research-and-teaching-package questions to see what else a candidate might provide to the school.  And my guess is that these questions will focus on how the candidate could help with employment outcomes and new pedadgogical directions.

These are not traditional topics for questions, and  schools with higher employment and salary numbers will be likely focus on the candidate's scholarship.  But at schools where students are struggling harder to find jobs, and where graduates may be looking for more practice-readiness, schools may be thinking more broadly about what a candidate can bring to the table.  So -- does a candidate have a connection to the market(s) where the school's graduates are looking to work?  Would she/he be able to facilitate connections between students and a new set of potential employers?  Does he/she have subject-matter expertise that would lend itself to a center, not just for academic reasons but also because it would help students find jobs in the area?  And some schools might be looking for profs who can teach not only the traditional doctrinal subjects but also more innovative or practice-oriented offerings.  So -- would a business law prof be interested in working with an entrepreneurship clinic, lab, or externship program?  Would a civ pro candidate want to work with appellate moot court teams, or help to set up a state supreme court clinic?  Would the candidate consider working on a capstone course, like a ten-credit practicum, that the school is considering adopting?

There's a traditional dialogue in the hiring process, captured nicely by Christine Hurt's animated short.  But I'm wondering if this year might be a little different.  Hiring committees and candidates, feel free to weigh in.  Will schools be looking for something different?  Should they?

Posted by Matt Bodie on October 3, 2013 at 01:12 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink


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Having been on the market the last few years, it is my anecdotal experience that schools are already looking for a "plus" factor from candidates. In addition to my scholarship and teaching, schools already asked about if I was willing to help work with or run particular centers, either existing or planned, or was willing or able to coach advocacy teams. Some of this type of work was already apparent from my CV, and I considered it a plus and tried to highlight it in my interviews by asking about other areas I could contribute in, particularly in advocacy. I considered this in the realm of "service", and I assumed the schools did as well.

That being said, I was never asked directly about how I could increase the school's employment outcomes, although at least one school did ask how I might counsel a student who might be interested in a job outcome beyond their current situation.

Posted by: anonish | Oct 3, 2013 3:46:42 PM

At Albany Law, we saw the signs coming starting in around 2005-2008 of a restructuring of the legal services demand by employers and the new demand by consumers for a more faceted faculty. We introduced language into our hiring criteria that emphasized respect for professional experience and thus hired a number of candidates with both deep respect for and experience in practice in addition to scholarly and teaching potential.

Posted by: MARY LYNCH | Oct 3, 2013 9:04:45 PM

And what about tenure review (over the next 3-5 years)? The scenario you paint, Matt, sounds like a time-bomb for a candidate who aces one of those traditional 25-minute interviews.

Imagine a law school chooses the ace but, panicking over distressed enrollment numbers a couple of years hence, yearns for cadre with practice experience or some other easily-read quality that (law school administration imagines) will attract law school applicants. Unable to clear the decks of the tenured, will law schools use tenure review to clear out yesterday's aces and make space for new hires they imagine might bring some kind of "plus"?

Posted by: anon | Oct 4, 2013 3:34:56 PM

I actually don't think most schools will change their tenure requirements. I just think it will be a subtle overlay on the hiring process. Of course, I could be wrong in both directions -- schools might not care at all about these "plus" considerations or they might overhaul their entire hiring processes around them. I'm just wondering what's happening -- if schools or candidates are in fact taking plus factors into consideration.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Oct 4, 2013 4:07:41 PM

I doubt the questions will change this year. Professors can't create jobs, and contacts that exist today probably won't last more than a few years. New pedagogical techniques are almost always old techniques with new labels, and experienced profs know that.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Oct 4, 2013 4:28:14 PM

I am a candidate interviewing in both Canada and the US. I have found that especially in Canada, but at a couple of US schools as well, the "something more" that schools asked me about was my expected ability to bring in grant funding. My subject area is one that is more conducive to external funding, but perhaps this is the direction things will go in for other areas as well.

Posted by: anon | Oct 5, 2013 12:32:44 AM

I was on the market 3 years ago. Most non top 50 schools with which I interviewed asked me how would I support students' job search. It is true that professors cannot create jobs, but professors can do a TON in order to make sure that their students are the ones getting the few jobs that are out there.
Based on my anecdotal 2 year experience, students whose job search efforts are supported by professors (even assistant professors such as myself) are much more likely to land an offer.
And by "supported" I don't only mean calling prospective employers (even though obviously important); I mean help in reviewing resumes, discussing cover letters, and floating idea about how to approach specific employers. I even do mock interviews if students ask (time permitting). A professor can support students across the board, not only the efforts of top students who are likely to get a job anyway.
Career services offices in most schools are so entrenched in the "process" (i.e., on campus interview weeks), that they fail to realize that these days most students get their jobs by approaching firms directly, and not through on campus processes (at least in my T50 school, hard data supports this). Sometimes career services people are really (really!) great dedicated people, but the offices are so thinly staffed, that they can't do anything else other than support the "process". Any professor with recent practical experience is better equipped to help students, than career services are (or at least as equipped).
It is not in a the professor's job description, but it is my opinion that if you don't help your student with their job search, you are not as good as a law professor you can be. It is therefore a fair question to ask in an interview. In turn, it stems that if you are unequipped to help students in this regard (meaning, you have never looked for a legal job yourself), you are less than a great candidate in my opinion.

Posted by: Asstprof | Oct 8, 2013 9:36:08 AM

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